May 18, 2003


In Mark 4:26-29, Jesus said, "The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground, and should sleep by night and rise by day, and the seed should sprout and grow, he himself does not know how. For the earth yields crops by itself; first the blade, then the head, after that the full grain in the head. But when the grain ripens, immediately he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come."

We share with you the comments of B.W. Johnson's People's New Testament With Notes. "This parable is given only by Mark, but its general lesson is enforced by parallel passages, e.g., Isa. 55:10, 11; Jas. 5:7, 8; 1 Pet. 1:23-25. In the kingdom of grace, as in nature, we are laborers together with God; the results of our work depend on Him, and for the perfection of these results he takes his own time (1 Cor. 3:5-9). Hence, (1) it is ours to sow the seed (the truth), His to give it growth; (2) having sown, we are to wait for time and God to perfect it; (3) this He does according to a definite order of development -- first the blade, then the ear, then the full corn in the ear; (4) not until there has been time for development, are we to expect to reap. The lesson is one of trust and hope...

"There is a law of orderly development in natural growth, so also is it in reference to spiritual growth. Compare 1 John 2:12-14. Some growths are quicker than others, but in all there is growth. And we have no right to look for the end at the beginning, the ripened Christian experience in the young convert, the full corn in the first appearance of the blade. Observe, too, that we can know that there is a growth by its results, though we know not the how, and that each stage of the growth is more apparent than the preceding stage...

"The time of harvest is when the fruit is ripe; in this instance when the word has produced faith, repentance and obedience. Then those who exhibit the fruit are to be gathered into the church."

We find those comments by B.W. Johnson helpful though we suggest Jesus may well have had more in mind with regard to the harvest than simply the reaping into the church. Most of His parables of harvest made clear reference to the judgment at the end of the world. See Matt. 13:40-43; John 15:1-5. John the Baptist had warned a fruitless generation of such judgment: "And even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire... His winnowing fan is in Ills hand, and he will thoroughly purge His threshing floor, and gather His wheat into the barn; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire." (Matt. 3:10-12). That passage may have had initial reference to the upcoming destruction of Jerusalem, but that within itself was a "type" of the final judgment which was also in their more distant future - and in ours. 

--Clarence R. Johnson


Occasionally, we hear references to something called the "spirit of anti-ism." It is said to breed strife, prevent growth, and set churches on a downhill path to obscurity. Many churches are reportedly afflicted with this malady.

This is not a new indictment. It is a charge that has been made over more than a century against churches of Christ. It was said to be the problem among the churches that opposed instrumental music and the missionary society. More recently, it has been charged against those who oppose the modern institutions, cooperative arrangements and secular activities which have been introduced among the churches.

There is no question that such a spirit does exist. It is a do-nothing spirit which automatically vetoes, without so much as a passing consideration, any proposal for new undertakings. It is a spirit of fear, preferring to be idle for fear that in doing something a mistake might be made. It is a spirit of unjustified pride, rejoicing more in what it opposes than in what it accomplishes. Such a spirit has all of the evil consequences ascribed to it.

However ... A church is not necessarily affected by the "spirit of anti-ism" just because it opposes something. A strange thing it is that those who most often accuse others of anti-ism are themselves opposed to some things. It seems that, in their eyes, one may oppose instrumental music, missionary societies and a number of other things, and still be positive in outlook. But the moment one objects to the projects which they endorse, he is quickly accused of "the spirit of anti-ism." The fact is that an individual or a church may be ever so positive in outlook, ever so zealous of good works, ever so willing to join hands with others in scriptural undertakings and yet be forced to reject proposals that are found, after careful consideration, to be unauthorized by God's word. When this is the basis of objection, it is not a spirit of anti-ism, but one of loyalty to the King.

The fact that churches do not appear to be growing is no proof that they are plagued by the malignant "spirit of anti-ism." There are times "when men will not endure sound doctrine" and at such times, those "teachers after their own lusts" who will scratch their "itching ears" will have great success, whereas those who faithfully "do the work of an evangelist" will seem to be failures. This is no discredit to the faithful evangelist nor to the church which stands behind him. We must understand also, that apparent growth may not always be what it seems to be. The churches that adopted instruments in their worship and missionary societies for gospel work appeared to grow rapidly at first, while those charged with "the spirit of anti-ism" seemed to be dying out. Fifty years, however, told the true story.

Those who continually charge that churches opposed to the institutions are "doing nothing" and "dying out" usually have made no effort to learn what they are doing. True, quiet planting of the seed and the working of the leaven do not make headlines; and the work of independent, autonomous congregations is never as spectacular or sensational as county-wide, area-wide, or world-wide campaigns of combined churches. However, the simple plan is the Lord's and it is being followed by many congregations with the results He has promised.

Furthermore ... There is another spirit that is equally dangerous with the "anti spirit." It may be called the "pro spirit" or the "progressive spirit." It says of every proposal, "Let's do it!" It is the "Bandwagon spirit," the "On-the-march spirit," the "Hip-hip-hooray spirit," acting first and thinking later - if at all. It measures success in terms of numbers and publicity. It rejects mature Bible students as leaders and chooses professional executive-types who can produce results. This is the spirit which constantly proclaims that it is better to do something, even if it is wrong, than to do nothing! As though these were the only alternatives!

The Right Spirit Neither the "anti" nor the "pro" spirit is acceptable to the Lord. To please Him, one must be "fervent in spirit, serving the Lord" (Rom. 12:11); yet he must be one who dares not "go beyond the things that are written" (1 Cor. 4:6). He must be "ready unto every good work" (Titus 3:1); yet he must believe that with the Scriptures, he is "furnished completely unto every good work" (1 Tim. 3:17). He is to be "always abounding in the work of the Lord" (1 Cor. 15:58); yet always aware that "whosoever goeth onward and abideth not in the teaching of Christ, hath not God" (2 Jn. 9). He must be determined to "prove all things; hold fast that which is good" (1 Thess. 5:21). 

--Sewell Hall, Christianity Magazine, March, 1990


Many people are surprised to find that the Bible is pro sex. John Boy, on television's The Waltons, liked to shock his Sunday School teacher by choosing as a memory verse one of the eye-brow-raising passages. She turned flaming red, cleared her throat a lot, and stammered at the vividness of the Song of Solomon, for example. But in spite of a frequent hyper-prudery on our part, the fact remains that there are such sections in Scripture. God created men and women as sexual beings, and he invested sex with power, beauty, mystery, and profundity. It is a part of the "one flesh" development between a man and a woman, as in marriage they strive toward the total blending of their personalities.

This is not to say that God has placed no restrictions on sexual expression. He has identified and forbidden sexual immorality, establishing two broad categories which are taboo: all homosexual acts, and heterosexual acts which are pre- or extra-marital.

Perhaps the single, most pointed text covering both sides of this issue is Hebrews 13:4. "Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge." Whether the first part of the passage is a declarative statement or an imperative one-"Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled"- heaven clearly shines approval on the sexual relationship in marriage, and just as clearly frowns on any other arrangement.

In the Old Testament, the highly poetic imagery of Proverbs 5 sharply delineates God's will once again. "Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice with the wife of your youth. As a loving deer and a graceful doe, let her breasts satisfy you at all times; And always be enraptured with her love. For why should you, my son, be enraptured by an immoral woman, and be embraced in the arms of a seductress" (vv. 1 8-20)?

If many people are surprised to discover how glowingly Scripture speaks of marital sex, they are utterly astounded to learn that the Apostle Paul, that "old, woman-hating bachelor," as he has been dubbed by the women's movement, joins in the chorus of approbation. In fact, he not only joins in, but adds a new dimension to the discussion: the right of women to sexual fulfillment. In I Corinthians 6:18, he urges, "Flee sexual immorality," and notes that it is a sin against ones body, which is the "temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you" (v. 19).

He continues the discussion in chapter 7, observing that one purpose of marriage is to avoid sexually immorality (v, 2), and insisting that husbands and wives share mutual sexual rights and obligations. "Let the husband render to his wife the affection due her, and likewise also the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. And likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Do not deprive one another except with consent for a time, that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again so that Satan does not tempt you because of your lack of self-control" (vv. 3-5).

Given this balanced view expressed by Spirit-filled men, we need to exercise caution in our teaching on sexual matters. Too often we denounce the evils of sexual immorality without extolling the beauties of the marriage bed. Somehow, we have to strive for the same balance that the Bible manifests.

Since it was not good that man should be alone, God made woman, so that the two could become one flesh.

--James W. Ward, Lost River church, Bowling Green, KY



May 16-18

Bethlehem, PA

John Focht


Clarence R. Johnson
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